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Black Diamond budget includes new fees

It’s done. The Black Diamond City Council passed the city’s 2009 budget Dec. 23 after delaying the action when its Dec. 18 regular meeting was canceled due to weather. The council unanimously approved the budget, which needed to be taken care of before the end of the year.

According to city Finance Director May Miller and City Administrator Gwendolyn Voelpel, this year’s budget looks different than those in the past.

With a $5 million general fund, two of the most notable changes in the budget are a stormwater utility fund and a capital budget.

Work on the budget began in September with public hearings taking place in November and December.

The stormwater utility fund and its rate structure was adopted Nov. 6. The budget includes a 6 percent stormwater utility tax, the same tax the city collects on other utility providers who work within the city.

Until now, the stormwater maintenance activities have been funded primarily out of the sewer department with support from the street funds. The adoption of the utility rates allow the city to forego a sewer rate increase and relieves funding pressure on the street maintenance department.

The city will charge a flat stormwater rate of $13 per month for a single-family residence. Residents will see it on their January bill. Larger buildings will be assessed at the same rate based on size.

The utility serves all properties in Black Diamond, Voelpel explained, so every property owner – including those around Lake Sawyer who have not in the past received a Black Diamond sewer or water bill – will receive a stormwater bill.

The changes are in response to a state and federal requirement of the city’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

The city received a state Department of Ecology grant to cover the preliminary work that will ensure clean water. Miller said the first phase of the work is completed, but the fund will continue to cover on-going projects like manhole covers, testing, education and ditch cleaning.

Miller said Black Diamond was one of several small cities in the state that had started the process, but had not completed all the necessary work.

“It would have occurred with or without growth,” Miller said.

The city’s stormwater comprehensive planning effort is under way and will conclude in February. The plan will result in a recommended stormwater impact fee for new development.

A sewer rate increase from King County and Soos Creek Water and Sewer District is also included in the 2009 budget, as is a city water rate increase.

In November, the city also adopted what Voelpel calls a full-fledged Capital Improvement Plan to be funded in part by real estate excise funds, grants and impact fees. The multi-year plan, which extends to 2013 and is a first for the city, includes projects for transportation, public safety, parks, general government, water, sewer and stormwater.

“It hasn’t been in the budget before,” Voelpel said.

The dollar figure attached to CIP revenue is almost $25 million for the six years, with $4.3 million earmarked for 2009, the largest portion, 26.7 percent, coming from grants.

Miller said the city had collected funds prior to now, but without a plan could not spend it.

“We couldn’t spend the money until we had a plan,” Miller said. “Now we have a plan and a backlog of projects can begin. It will also allow the city to apply for grants for parks.”

The council will update the CIP annually and staff will add new projects. The 2009 budget includes amenitites and improvements to the state park, Union Stump Memorial Park, Eagle Creek Park and the Lake Sawyer Boat Launch. The plan also includes funds for a police records system and other city technology improvements and some facilty repairs.

The budget also calls for a cost of living increase for city employees. The roughly 40 employees, which include administrators, police, planners and utility workers, can expect a 5 percent increase. The police contract is still under negotiation.

Copies of both the budget and the CIP are available at city hall or online at www.ci.blackdiamond.wa.us.

Reach Brenda Sexton at bsexton@courierherald.com or 360-802-8206.

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